Facebook is at the center of controversy once again. Earlier this month, the company found itself involved in a political scandal with Cambridge Analytica. The consulting firm working on behalf of Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential campaign was exposed for obtaining personal information from users without their permission. Facebook now has to explain the handling of user communications.
Over the weekend, it was reported by several media outlets that Facebook is collecting call and text history under the radar. The claims are being fiercely denied as Facebook published a blog post laying out exactly what it does.
The contention comes from Facebook Messenger, the company’s global messaging platform. It’s being said that Facebook is asking users on Messenger and Messenger Lite with Android devices to hand over an entire log revealing who you’ve called and messaged. Facebook, however, says this is not done unless users opt-in.
Facebook explains that you need to “expressly agree to use this feature,” and it can be deactivated at any time. If a user decides to opt-out, all call and text-related data on the app is deleted. It’s only obtained to recommend friends to connect with on the app.
Doing so is actually a standard practice among third-party apps on Android. And it’s never displayed in an inconspicuous way. Facebook, in particular, shows an entire screen about continuously uploading contacts’ numbers and names as well as your call and text history. Android also requests permissions that a user accepts or declines to allow this.
The company added that it does not collect the content of communications nor sell any data:
“This feature does not collect the content of your calls or text messages. Your information is securely stored and we do not sell this information to third parties. You are always in control of the information you share on Facebook.”
People are concerned that Facebook’s been operating like this for years, well before Google made Android’s permissions more manageable. Apps like Facebook Messenger could have been collecting data on your communications without you knowing or being able to adjust the settings.
Users are at a disadvantage because, in addition to Facebook being forward about its data collection behavior, everyone agrees to an end-user license agreement. That basically protects Facebook from being in the wrong. And, to be honest, Facebook’s reasoning doesn’t come off as unjustifiable. If you want Messenger to make recommendations, it needs to know a little bit about yourself.
Anyone concerned with Messenger or Messenger Lite’s activities can opt-out, or they can simply uninstall either app. But then you should probably take a look at the other apps on your Android device as well. What you’ll find is that many apps are doing the same thing Facebook just got called out for.